A Bongo in the rolling Radnorshire hills pt2 – Gwaunceste hill and the Hergest ridge

by backpackingbongos

The high point of the road that crosses the Begwns was a perfect place to spend the night in the Bongo.  I was undisturbed until the first of the early morning dog walkers appeared.  I had a leisurely fried breakfast before setting off in the van via a series of very narrow winding lanes.  The pass above the isolated village of Glascwm was full of large shiny 4WD vehicles, all lined up in a row.  Very odd considering there was no one about and it gave the area the feel of a Chelsea car dealership.

Gwaunceste, Colva and Glascwm hills – 11.3 miles with 710 metres ascent

I squeezed the Bongo onto the verge a little way down the hill and walked back up to take the track that contours across the side of Little hill.  The village of Glascwm looked idyllic tucked into the deep green valley below.

Once again these hills provided exceptionally easy going as a wide grassy track took me through the bracken.  It’s a shame that the bracken has taken such a foothold  in the area.  The hills are pretty much choked in the stuff, almost to their summits.  However I bet the area looks pretty spectacular in the autumn then it dies down and turns various shades of golden brown.

A less defined track branched off to the right, which I followed before a final heather bash to the summit of Gwaunceste hill.  I sat for a while next to the trig point taking in the views, especially those to the west.  A patchwork of rolling green fields finally giving way to the more austere Cambrian mountains.

I retraced my steps and continued on the track as it descended to the north.  The high ground of the Radnor Forest was directly ahead with its prominent radio mast.

Following the edge of the moors the ground dropped steeply to my left, the isolated moorland of Llandegley rocks visible across the valley.

The next couple of miles were a joy to walk as a bridleway slowly climbed above one of the areas many Mawn pools, before dropping down into a hidden valley.  The valley is not named on my map and it had the feeling of being totally cut off from the rest of the world.  A bowl amongst the surrounding moors, where there does not appear to be a natural way in or out.

I rested and had lunch on a fallen tree next to a moss encrusted drystone wall.  I was really enjoying being out on the hills that day.  Although they are pretty unspectacular they do have a real charm that is difficult to put a finger on.  As I was packing up the only other hikers that I would see all day passed by with a cheery greeting.  I continued east towards the stream that eventually flows out of the valley and forms Gilwern Brook.

I managed to lose the bridleway for a bit when approaching the stream, briefly floundering amongst the bog.  Back on course I found another well defined track which led to Pant-glas.  This ramshackled building has a real charm and I have to admit that I was rather jealous of its owners.  It appeared to be an isolated smallholding, complete with large greenhouse.  This is proper off-grid living with power being supplied by a couple of small wind turbines.  It looked like at some point it had been connected to solar panels.  Although it was clear that no one was at home I had to resist the temptation to have a nosy through the windows.  If the owners read this and want to gift it to Backpackingbongos, please get in contact!

The grassy track continued to climb, giving great views back across the off-grid dwelling to the extensive hidden bowl in the hills.

As I crested the hill onto the moorland plateau my day quickly went down hill.  Rather than go over it once again, those who have not read it can follow this link to Get off my access land.

I left the trig point rather pissed off to be honest, an enjoyable day had turned sour.  A narrow track through the heather soon turned grassy as it descended across Llanfihangel hill.  I sat for a while, the excellent views south not lifting my mood.

Another superb grassy path took me to a boggy col before a byway led down into the valley.  A convoy of trail bikes noisily passed me by, kicking up a huge plume of choking dust that filled all my facial orifices.  I wanted to shake my poles at them angrily but they had just as much right to be there as I did.  A climb through sheep pastures brought me back to my initial outward route which I followed back to the van.

I sat and relaxed for a while and made a coffee.  I was keen to bag Glascwm hill so set off in the opposite direction.  A track took me close to the summit which was marked by a tiny pile of stones.  I did a little victory dance and offered a finger to the gamekeeper who had spoilt my day earlier.  He had mentioned that this was on his patch.  All around me the clouds were beginning to boil and churn, lines of showers tracking across the surrounding hills.  A rainbow formed in front of me.

As I descended the heavens opened and I managed to get my waterproof jacket on just in time.  It was too late for my lower half and I got back to the Bongo a dripping mess.  After changing into dry clothing I drove the few miles to the single track lane that crosses Llanbedr hill.  An excellent spot was located just before the road plunges down into the Edw valley.

During the evening the van was buffeted by wind and rain, brief glimpses of the sun giving a faint promise of another sunset.  However it was not to be as a shower passed by just at the crucial moment.

It was another peaceful night except for one slightly alarming moment when I was woken at 3am.  I heard a slowly approaching vehicle with very load singing getting nearer and nearer, the occupants playing percussion by banging on the roof.  Thankfully they trundled by without stopping and I could hear them for several minutes as they crossed the moor.  I have a sneaky suspicion that drink / drug drive laws may not be strictly enforced in such rural areas!

I had another slow leisurely morning complete with fry-up whilst I decided where to hike that day.  I did not want to get home too late as I had work the following day.  I thought that the Hergest ridge would be a good quick option and it was in a homeward direction.

The Hergest ridge – 3.7 miles with 210 metres ascent

As I drove across the moor towards Paincastle I passed the same lot of 4WD vehicles that were lined up above Glascwm the day before.  Once again there was no one around, most peculiar.  Maybe there is a 4WD hill walking owners club?

I parked up outside the school in Gladestry and followed the Offa’s Dyke path steeply up a lane.  The walk to the summit of the hill was a simple there and back with superb scenery.  The lane gave way to a tree-lined track which led onto open country.  Once again the hill was infested with bracken but another superb wide grassy path made the going very pleasant.

Looking west into Wales.

The ‘forbidden’ Colva hill which I climbed the previous day.

Looking north towards the Radnor forest.

The steep and shapely Hanter hill.

The path passed close to the top of a steep valley, the views to the north and west being extensive for a relatively low hill.  If the rest of the Offa’s Dyke path offers scenery similar to this I would be keen to walk all of it.

I passed the unmarked high point of the hill and walked over to the trig point.  A truly excellent spot which I had thought would be crowded considering it was a warm and sunny summer sunday.  Instead I only had to share it with the numerous sheep and a herd of fell ponies.  The views east across the Midlands were only restricted by the summer haze.  If it was not for a lack of water it would be a great spot to pitch a tent for the night.

I soaked up the views for a while before reluctantly turning round and heading back down to the van and the drive home.


19 Comments to “A Bongo in the rolling Radnorshire hills pt2 – Gwaunceste hill and the Hergest ridge”

  1. despite the aforementioned eejit looks like a splendid coupla daze out, lucked in with the weather too. I’ve done little bits of the Offa’s dyke path but nothing like the whole thing. Very fond of that valley. Also liking the sound of fryups in the morning.

    • The best way to start a day in the hills involves filling a campervan full of smoke as you fry something. I imagine that the Offa’s Dyke would be a fantastic way to spend a couple of weeks in the hills…….

  2. It’s a wonderful part of the world. I walked the wholes of Offa’s Dyle on my LEJOG and I put it right at the top of Britain’s walking country. Even the flat bits have charm. Interestingly, it is hillier than the PW: See HERE for details

  3. A couple of good write ups James. Spent some time early this morning propped up in bed with a cup of tea reading them.

  4. I really enjoyed this bit of the ODP. Our route that trip provided a very short day between Gladestry and Kington, so we had a lovely, gentle day over Hergest Ridge with plenty of lazing on the cropped grass, soaking up the views, followed by tea and ice creams in the Hergest Croft Gardens. A waste of half a day to some, but a day we remember very fondly!

    • The Hergest ridge is lovely eh? On a warm and sunny day I would say that lounging about is not a waste of time, you can’t beat a good laze! Have you done the full ODP?

  5. Actually we only had a week and did a southern section from Chepstow to Churchstoke. From Pandy onwards, we felt it was almost universally fantastic – and would do it again. We probably will do the northern section sometime for completions sake.

    Not your thing perhaps but one of our abiding memories was the beautifully situated mountain farm B&B we stayed at just below Hay Bluff – and their “light supper”. Perfect!

  6. A lovely area, Mike and I have just returned from a ramble in the area. Pant glas is fascinating, a hippy, sort of shanty. Be aware I have also put a claim in for the place.

  7. Hi, oddly enough, no hassle on the hill. We went up late, around five thirty and passed two guys in a landrover. They acknowledged us but said nothing. There are gas guns being used up there but there is a marked difference between those and shotgun blasts. A gas gun gives off a sort pffudd, whereas a shotgun is a more pronounced crack. Love your write ups, That is a special area, lovely walking country.

  8. Good account there, the bracken-clad hills of the Marches offer rewarding backpacking, notwithstanding the water difficulties. I must say I don’t recall seeing any of the usual signs of grouse shooting in those parts, and very few grouse come to think of it, we thought it was a peculiarly English thing.
    A significant fraction of the total ascent of the ODP is apparently the stiles!.

    • Geoff I did not spot a single Grouse, in the Peaks you are tripping up over them. A lovely area of Wales though, although all those stiles on the Offa’s Dyke may get a bit much.

  9. Wish ‘d been able to join you now! That area is just excellent for easy strolling so you give me a whole host on ideas for some more walks as they are only 30 mins or so from my front door. That sunset must have been magical

    • It’s a shame that you could not make it that weekend Andy. Lucky chap having such wonderful countryside on your doorstep.

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